COCAINE SOCIALISM

Currently re-reading (it's a perennial khazi classic tbh) the late David Cavanagh’s My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize - his doorstop account of the rise and fall of Creation Records - famously dismissed by Alan McGee, who doesn’t really need Cavanagh’s help to come across as a prize bell-end, as “the accountant’s tale”. I actually have respect for McGee, or at least the man he was, the insecure ginger Weedgie out for the main chance in London, propelled by pills and powder and sheer bloody-mindedness to fame and riches and POLITICAL INFLUENCE - at least for a time. His chequered career is pretty much a perfect analogue/exemplar of the Thatcher-Major-Blair (dis)continuum, as well an an object lesson in how much you can achieve while being out of your fucking nut. 

Magpie Eyes - published in 2001, and inexplicably out of print ever since, as far as I'm aware - is the best  book about the independent record business ever written. Cavanagh is aided of course by an incredible cast of chippy/gobby/prickly/preachy (delete as appropriate), fitfully inspired characters to light the way - Primal Scream, Television Personalities, Oasis, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The House of Love, Felt, Momus among myriad other bands great and small, plus a rotating assembly of perma-blitzed Creation staff and industry hangers-on (there is a special place in hell reserved for PRs). The LOLs come thick and fast - all Cav has to do is record, with his well-honed deadpan detachment, who did and said what. The book forms a perfect diptych with John Harris’s Britpop post-mortem The Last Party, a similarly clear-eyed, underrated epic of pop/social history which carefully unpicks the tangle of egos and vested media and institutional interests that led to that dubious cultural “moment” in the mid-90s, when London seemed like the centre of the universe, and how basically the whole thing was brought crashing back down to earth when all the principals discovered a taste for smoking heroin.

Both books also evoke something I only experienced the fag-end of (if that) - a time when Soho and the West End still had a few dark places and dirty secrets remaining, and when Chalk Farm, Primrose Hill, Camden and Kentish Town were THE places to see and be seen. Fancy that!  

 

 

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